I haven’t read the earlier books in this series but this book seemed to be easily read as a stand alone.
I enjoyed this book and I thought the writing was superb. The only reason this was a 4 star read for me was that I have a bit of trouble connecting with high drama, can’t stop repeating the same behavior that is causing me problems, high maintenance characters. With that said, I ended really liking both Val and Ashton it just took me a lot of the book to get there.
Ashton is a social media celebrity (which is already a difficult concept for me to connect with) so the fact that he leads a life of club hopping, sexual encounters and blog reports didn’t make it easier. Ashton is portrayed as a vacuous man that goes from one party to the next and picks up men to have sex with that aren’t necessarily good for or to him. The only one that sees the real Ash is his best friend Val. The problem for me with the beginning of the book is that Ash uses that friendship to count on Val to “rescue” him from one bad situation to the next. Val cares deeply for Ash but he hates his lifestyle (more because he knows it doesn’t really make Ash happy then because he’s judgmental about it). He also hates Ash’s family not only because he feels they took his mom from him but because of the way they have and do treat Ash. He also has a secret he thinks will ultimately tear him and Ash apart.
The truth is that Ash is a man who craves love, acceptance and understanding. He only gets that from Val but Val pushes Ash away when they get to close so Ash acts out to bring Val running back into his life. Both men drove me a little crazy by being their own worst enemy.
What lies inside is a man longing for affection and understanding. The only person who’s ever seen the real Ashton is his childhood friend Valdrin, the nanny’s son. There were times when I didn’t like either Ash or Val but I always sympathized with them and while I wanted to shake them I could even understand why they made some of the decisions that they did. Ash had a very low self esteem and it broke my heart even when I wanted him to grow up a bit and take responsibility for the way the world viewed him. Val also had his issues and I think the push/pull he had towards Ash went on a little too long.
What I loved about this book was the way a beautiful friendship was portrayed and how both characters went through a wonderful self-discovery that ultimately led to growth and love. The alternating POVs let the reader get into the mind of both characters which was very necessary to understand the motivations driving their behavior. There were some absolutely beautiful and emotional dialogue in this book that will make your heart warm, bring a sigh out and a tear to your eye.
Ultimately, although the lives of these two men is so far away from anything I am familiar with I was drawn to them, rooted for them and sympathized with them. I may not have always liked them or agreed with their actions but I felt for them and wanted them to find happiness not only with each other but within themselves.
This was my first Five Boroughs book but I will definitely be going back to read the previous books in the series. An emotionally moving, character driven and satisfying book that left me wanting more!